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20th May, 2022

Redditch remembers: Tales of bravery

Ross Crawford 22nd Oct, 2017

ONE hundred years ago this week, in the First World War British troops were preparing for their second attempt to take the village of Passchendaele.

Fresh battalions were moved up and relieved the battle weary ones who’d been in the attack of October 12.

Henry Hawkes however never made it back from the front.

He was born in Fulham, London in 1888, the son of Caleb and Ann Elizabeth Hawkins of Birchfield Road, Headless Cross. The couple has four children and Henry’s younger brother, Caleb, was also killed in 1917.

Henry worked as a bricklayer and served with the 4th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, which had suffered heavily in the action of October 12.

He is remembered today on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.

Fred Cooper has no known grave.

Born Frederick Graham Cooper in Astwood Bank in 1898, he was one of Frederick Thomas and Sarah Jane Cooper’s six children.

The family lived on Castle Street and Fred’s father worked as a machine needle straightener.

He enlisted in Stratford on Avon and was 19-years-old and an acting Bombardier with D Battery of 108th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery when he was killed on the Passchendaele front.

He is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium and on the Astwood Bank War Memorial.

Henry Beckett died on October 21, 1917, but not on the Western Front, but in hospital after being shot a year earlier during the Battle of the Somme.

He too was born in 1898, the son of George Henry and Jane Ellen Beckett of Marsden Road, Redditch.

He served as a Private with the Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) and never recovered from his injuries, dying in hospital from pneumonia.

He is buried at Etaple Military Cemetery in France and is remembered today on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.

Captain Joseph Morton was killed on October 22 leading an attack at Houthulst Forest, north of Ypres, as the British prepared for a second attempt to take the village of Passchendaele.

The son of Edwin Morton, a physician and surgeon of 12 Church Green East in Redditch and Annie Emily Goodchild, he was born in 1895 and was one of the couple’s five children.

Young Joseph attended Cambridge University and was commissioned into the 23rd Battalion the Manchester Regiment.

His unit had attacked at 5.45am and were immediately caught by German aeroplanes.

With the attacks on both flanks running into trouble his company was caught in a crossfire of machine guns which caused enormous casualties, including all the officers.

Capt Morton has no known grave but is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial and on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.

Private George Frederick Styler died in the same action as Capt Morton.

He was born in 1893 to Frederick Foster and Jane Elizabeth Styler and the family lived at 15 Queen Street, however he was left orphaned after both his parents died in 1893.

He served in the 14th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment and was also killed when his unit was outflanked at Houthulst Forest.

Neither he nor Capt Morton have any known grave but both are remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial and on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.


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